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In Lucia's Eyes Paperback – February 13, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in the mid-18th century, Dutch author Japin's elegant second novel (after The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi) richly imagines the plight of Casanova's first youthful heartbreak. Lucia is 14 and a servant girl in a noble house in Pasiano, Italy, when she first meets the young seminarian visitor Giacomo Casanova, who is as virginal as she. They fall into a frolicsome love affair until Lucia contracts the dreaded smallpox. Horribly disfigured from the disease, she concocts a story to turn Giacomo away and flees her home to embrace adventures across Europe, in turn working as a servant, a secretary to an enlightened woman philosopher, and a prostitute, who "learned to accept what other women found intolerable." Years later, having reinvented herself as Galathee, a well-heeled madam in Amsterdam, she finds a mysterious liberation in the use of a veil to attract her clients and meets Casanova again, now the practiced seducer le Chevalier de Seingalt. Their mature affair is conducted in the form of a cynical wager, and they dance rhetorically around the tender feelings of their youth. Despite the awkward conceit of the prostitute's veil and the sometimes stilted language of this translation, Japin has incorporated Casanova's Story of My Life to beguiling effect. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Japin (The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi) offers an intriguing story about love, deceit, betrayal, identity, and self-sacrifice. Presented from Lucia's perspective, the story rests on one detail from Casanova's Histoire de ma vie but makes good use of its larger context. Critics agree that Japin's rich historical material, including Lucia's involvement in the era's intellectual, artistic, and philosophical currents, makes the 18th century come alive. They disagree, however, about Lucia: Is she a flesh-and-blood woman or cardboard cutout? In pitting reason against emotion, Japin also creates a heavy-handed morality play. It's "high-brow chick lit in Masterpiece Theatre drag," says Newsdaybut in the end, the book is also a compelling piece of historical fiction.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
I liked the premise, Casanova's only lost love turns out to have run away in shame after being disfigured by smallpox, and later they meet and engage in a battle of the genders when she is a prostitute in Amsterdam.
But this book does not read like historical fiction. Possibly it is the translation from Dutch into English which rendered this into a snooty sudo intellectual novel on the nature of suffering. Maybe it is the translation which made all of the words in this book into things rarely seen in dictionaries. I mean, normal English isn't exactly a bad language for describing things. Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss, a smile is just a smile....not "any mouth game we could make of it" or something weird like that.
Anyway, the language of this book killed me. I lost interest by page 100, and I quite without finishing.
"The profound peace I feel in libraries goes beyond silence. The paper doesn't just muffle sound but stills the roar of my thoughts... [and] things written down are easier to let go of."
"The attraction of ruins is one whose explanation I shall expect in the hereafter! What allure could there be about a heap of rubble?"
The Author's birth year (1956) and nationality (Holland) are significant in that the book takes place mostly in Amsterdam and much has changed, while other things have not... in 250 years!
For me, the book's locale/subject had some meaning: I visited Amsterdam when I was about 20. At that time, "a must" tourist attraction was to view whores who were displayed in street-level windows. With only three days to see the sights, I went. Then, I was too young; but now, because of this book, I know more.
With Lucia, in the 1750's, we listen to her step-by-step analysis of her life. She describes her peasant frivolities, her loving parents, how she comes to be educated, what friendships and employers augment her growth, and we mature with her.
She details her love, explains the milieu of the social classes, the medical profession, and Amsterdam's bizarre attitude toward prostitution. And ultimately... Well, I was surprised with the ending, comfortable as it was. The developments are both enjoyable and eye-opening.
In "In Lucia's Eyes", theatrics, ancestry, and cosmetics (or veils) are treated in more ways than one. The reader learns in the Author's Postscript (Arthur Japin, author, actor) that the BACKGROUND of an anecdote, a play the characters attend, exists. Jacques Japin (ancestor of the author?) wrote the play within, in 1747. We also learn that Lucia may actually be "buried in a churchyard of St. Paul's in Flatbush, New York". Even the typeface of the book is documented as having significant timeliness. Therefore, the depth is both playful and serious.
Okay, so the book feels real and the details hit resonating chords. But more importantly, the theme is: "The blessing of love is not in being loved, it IS in loving." We, the reader, are shown the evolution of learning to accept oneself. Further, "We MUST give away the thing we most long for." And, writing DOES liberate. I agree.
I gave this book a four-star rating (less than a perfect five), because there were a few transitions that were not as crystal clear as they might have been. Those wrinkles were momentary hiccups and that's all. Perhaps when I re-read the book, I'll blame the continuity snags on my own alertness when reading.
In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it. Lucia had a happy childhood. She searched for betterment. She used admirable good ethics, survival tactics, and cleverness and she tenderly orchestrated the life she was dealt.
Thus, "In Lucia's Eyes" by Arthur Japin, translated by David Colmer, a journey ascends and enriches the reader. Read it and see for yourself.
She earns her way doing various jobs especially as a prostitute to those every other fallen woman rejected. Eventually she becomes Madam Galathee de Pompignac running a popular brothel in Amsterdam and using a sexy veil to hide her visage while also making her mysterious to her clients. Casanova, renowned as the seducer le Chevalier de Seingalt, meets his first love and they wager a war of words, wit, and a challenge to determine whose gender is the stronger.
This fascinating historical tale provides a different look at Casanova through the eyes of his first love. Her trials and tribulations turn her into a strong intelligent woman during an era when females were not expected to show any wit. The period is vividly described, though at times the window into the mid eighteenth century overwhelms the battle of the sexes. Still Arthur Japin provides a solid gender war that humanizes the legendary lover as he competes in a fierce skirmish of the mind and the body against his greatest opponent, his first love.